How important is careful handwriting in Spelling You See? When a parent asks this question, I know I’m speaking to a parent who really wants to see their child have beautiful handwriting like Laura Ingalls Wilder in Little House on the Prairie.
I might have been that parent as well, having been kept after school pretty much my whole 4th grade year by my teacher, who said that my handwriting was absolutely miserable. As an adult, I can assure you my handwriting is legible.
The Goal of Spelling You See
The goal of a Spelling You See experience is to have a student develop their long-term visual memory for proper word patterns. Dr. Holinga herself says that “sloppy copy”, when writing the words, is okay.
It is also important to know that children who really hate to hold a pencil and hate to write are not necessarily disobedient or recalcitrant. It frequently indicates that they are in need of further brain organization to connect their neural synapses more thoroughly. The best gift you can give this child is to insist that they do some copywork daily. This is the very reason we time limit the Spelling You See copywork to ten minutes a day.
That ten minute time investment in copywork will yield benefits in a variety of ways. The more proficient a student becomes with the copywork process, the easier it becomes. You will see this strategy of copywork meld into other aspects of their academics as well. Think of this like learning a skill that requires practice. A sport like golf, tennis, or Taekwondo requires multiple repetitions of the same muscle pattern to yield successful results. The act of copywork requires a similar skill set.
Dysgraphia and Handwriting
I think it is important, too, that we say a word about dysgraphia here. More and more parents make the assumption that their children have dysgraphia because they receive so much push back from them about the mechanical process of writing.
I watched a tremendous workshop a year ago, done by an accomplished occupational therapist who worked in the field of education. She said that our children’s involvement with digital enterprises (think handheld games) are actually thwarting our efforts to teach them to write. The more a young child plays with games that require them to hold the device AND use their thumbs to manipulate something (think game controller here) the more the space between their thumb and pointer finger closes. They should be able to form their fingers into a good approximation of a circle, or a “C” shape. (This helps with pencil grip.) However, she said that a significant number of children she sees in her practice have such a tight pincer grasp between thumb and first finger that it impedes their ability to hold a pencil.
Dysgraphia itself is a complex diagnosis. Briefly, it is a writing disorder associated with impaired handwriting; the storing process of written words and letters, called orthography; and finger sequencing, specifically the movement of the fingers in such a way as to facilitate writing. As a parent, I would be loathe to apply a diagnosis to my children if I had not exhausted every opportunity to help them overcome. The process of the brief exchange with the Spelling You See copywork on a daily basis may indeed help to alleviate that possible dysgraphia.
There are some children who have neurological deficits, such as cerebral palsy, which won’t allow them to hold a pencil successfully. I’ve consulted with Dr. Holinga (the author of Spelling You See) several times over the last three years about those children. She has encouraged me that even the child watching the process can be successful; however, the success comes much slower and at a much greater investment of time for the parent. So, if a diagnosis of dysgraphia is part of your child’s present circumstance, it does not mean that Spelling You See will not work for them. It is just an opportunity for you to orchestrate their learning in a different way. Don’t give up! Just as for Laura Ingalls Wilder in The Long Winter, spring will come to you eventually, in the form of spelling success.